The Denver Broncos have four players who will have the exclusive rights free agent designation once NFL Free Agency approaches on March 15. What type of leverage do the Broncos have with these contracts?

Denver Broncos exclusive rights free agents

What is an exclusive rights free agent? According to the NFL Free Agency Glossary, an ERFA is any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If the player’s original team offers them a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on their credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams. Basically, the Broncos can and will likely keep players under an ERFA tag who they believe have value to them.

Jonas Griffith
Jonas Griffith provides the Denver Broncos defense with valuable depth at the linebacker position. Griffith will be 26 this upcoming season and has strong intangibles that make bringing him back onto the roster in 2023 a valuable move for George Paton. Paton initially traded for Griffith prior to the 2021 season to help Denver’s special teams unit with depth.

Ultimately, the Broncos linebacker found himself in a position to start the final four games for Denver in 2021 where he finished with 40 tackles in those four games. He and Josey Jewell emerged this season as starters on the defensive side of the ball at inside linebacker. Unfortunately for Griffith, a foot injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year after playing in nine games for Denver and starting in eight of them.

With the emergence of Alex Singleton and his pending free agency, the Broncos face some interesting decisions, but it would greatly benefit the team to bring both players back in 2023. Griffith’s size and athleticism are special and worth molding even further. He’ll only continue to keep growing and Denver is the perfect fit for him to stay.

Lamar Jackson
The Broncos discovered the talent of Lamar Jackson (not that Lamar Jackson) toward the end of the 2022 season. After signing to the practice squad at the end of November, Jackson quickly found himself elevated to the active roster.

Jackson saw his first action of the year on defense in Week 17 after rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis left the game with a concussion. His 6’3 215lb frame stood out on tape while playing on the outside against the Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, knocking away two passes. The soon-to-be fourth-year cornerback played a majority of his snaps on special teams in just two games for Denver this season but possesses some of the qualities like size, athleticism, and speed to garner a return on the Broncos’ 90-man roster going into training camp.

Considering the Broncos’ depth at cornerback as it currently stands, Jackson would be a worthwhile option to bring back in 2023 as a developmental player while keeping an eye on the free agency market and NFL Draft.

Will Sherman
You can never have enough depth at offensive tackle in the National Football League. On top of that, you can never have enough young developmental talent either. Will Sherman is an interesting option the Broncos should keep an eye on with his ERFA status. The CU product made it onto the team’s practice squad for the 2022 season.

With Billy Turner, Tom Compton, Cam Fleming, and Calvin Anderson all set to become unrestricted free agents, Sherman would be a cost-effective developmental prospect to consider bringing back and allowing him to compete at training camp for a roster spot. While he isn’t projected to be a starter in the NFL, with his 6’4 310lb frame, Sherman could very well be a player George Paton identifies as someone who could benefit from more development on the practice squad.

Corliss Waitman
The Denver Broncos special teams unit struggled in various departments, but Corliss Waitman began to find consistency towards the end of the season in 2022. The Broncos’ first-year punter beat out veteran Sam Martin in competition for the position during training camp and the preseason. His leg was put to the test this past season, booting the ball away 96 times in all 17 games. He averaged 46.6 yards per punt (17th) with a net of 41.4 yards per punt, finishing 13th overall on the season.

31 of his 96 punts were pinned inside the 20-yard line, with six of them bouncing into the endzone for a touchback. Unless the Broncos take a look at eight unrestricted free agents at the position, Waitman should at least receive consideration to return for training camp to compete with another option. Keep in mind, despite some inconsistencies from Waitman this season, the Broncos’ punt coverage unit allowed only 7.7 yards per return which ranked 8th in the NFL, which is a credit to Waitman.

Once the Broncos hire their next head coach, some of these personnel decisions will likely be made.